It’s hard to create tension if your readers can sense that there are lines you won’t cross. Once they know that you won’t let anything really bad happen to “good” characters, most of the suspense drains out of what should be tense scenes. They know the sweet schoolteacher in the car crash will be okay, the deranged husband of the vulnerable young woman won’t actually kill her, and so on. How can you keep that from happening?
Jan here, enjoying a beautiful fall afternoon in the foothills of the Sierras. Today I'm considering the readers of the books we are writing–the essential person that we must keep in mind.
Over the years I’ve critiqued quite a few nonfiction proposals and manuscripts. The writers pored out their souls in their manuscripts, sometimes to the point of (figuratively) bleeding on the page. Each hoped their story would make a difference in the lives of others who had experienced similar struggles.
I found the ideas of many of the stories compelling. And yet, for some, the delivery left me feeling alienated from or cautious about the heart of the message. Why?
Last month, we started this series by talking about how old-school terrorists and suspense authors are the same in one important way: Like terrorists, we want to create uncertainty and tension that makes it impossible for our victims (er, readers) to focus on anything except what's going to happen next in the world we've created. Now we're going to start digging a little deeper to see what we writers can learn from the PLO and Baader-Meinhof gang.
A good terrorist introduces himself with something flashy and devastating, right? So does a good suspense writer.
This article is taken from my booklet 5 Simple Steps to Kick Start Your Speaking Career.
The very first thing you need to do as a speaker is get a list of references together. You need to prove you’ve got some street cred. No one wants to hire a speaker that no one else will endorse. Event planners need to know that you have spoken before and that you didn’t pass out while doing it.
These endorsements will be used over and over again—on your website, promotional postcards, speaker packets and on other speaker websites that you will eventually become a part of.
If you are just getting started in speaking, you may be wondering who will endorse you.
This is the time to start getting creative.
1. Brainstorm the times you have been in front of a group.
If you are pursuing a career in public speaking, chances are you have done some presentations, somewhere.
Maybe it was teaching a Bible study at church, or a talk you did for coworkers. Have you ever worked with a youth group, or been in a Toastmasters group? Those are all people who have heard you speak and can write an endorsement for you.
2. Offer to speak to a group, free of charge.
Many of my clients have started out by speaking for a group for free, just to get their foot in the door and to get their first endorsements rolling
in. Look for civic groups, mothers or MOPS (Mothers Of Pre-Schoolers) groups. Most of these would welcome the chance for you to speak on a topic that is tailored to their audience.
Let them know that you will be happy to do the presentation for no charge as long as the leader of that group would write you a recommendation (if they felt that you were recommendation-worthy!) It is a win-win—they get a fabulous speaker that they may not otherwise be able to afford, and you get that oh-so-valuable endorsement.
3. Make it easy for the event planner
Experience has shown me that it is very hard for people to write recommendations. It is not that the event planner didn’t love you—quite the opposite. She knows that she is not able to express her feelings well enough to do you justice. Everything she writes sounds dull and flat to her ear.
I strongly encourage you to give her an example of a great endorsement—that way she will know what you are looking for, but can write the endorsement in her own words to best reflect you.
If there are key words that reflect who you are, let her know that those are areas that you would love for her to highlight if she felt comfortable. Again, you are not writing the endorsement for her (everyone can see
through those kind of endorsements…) but giving her a framework to work within that will make the task easier for her and more useable for you.
Jan here, writing today about the fine brushstrokes of editing nonfiction.
Nonfiction writing can, and should be, accomplished artfully, perhaps especially in the editing stage
Whether we are writers who let our words flow first or we edit as we go, at some point in the process we pause to consider what we’ve written and how it can be refined. At first we may step back and take in the overall effect and organization. Then, with an artist’s eye, we look closely at the minutest of brushstrokes.